Mardi Gras in Sweden
- SWATHI RAMASWAMY
- UPDATED May 09, 2018
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1. What is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras is known as Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, in English. It is characterized by the Carnival celebrations. These celebrations begin on or after the Christian feasts and end before the day of Ash Wednesday. The word originated from French, which means "Fat Tuesday." This is because people eat rich and fatty foods to signify the start of the fasting season of Lent. In the United Kingdom, it is also known as ‘Shrove’ Tuesday, which means "to confess." Mardi Gras traditions differ from country to country. In cities such as New Orleans and Louisiana, Mardi Gras starts from the last night of Christmas to Ash Wednesday. The carnivals begin in the month of November, and continue through the New Year, Thanksgiving and then are culminated by parades and events in the months of January and February. There are a host of cities which are famous for their carnival celebrations which are: Rio de Janeiro; Barranquilla, Colombia; George Town, Cayman Islands; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada; and Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico,etc.
In Sweden, Mardi Gras is signified by eating the semla, a tasty pastry filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream.
2. What is a semla?
A semla is a cream bun. It is made with sweet in dough prepared with the help of yeast, filled with almond paste and is finally topped off with whipped cream. It is traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday or the day of Mardi Gras and is also known as ‘fettisdagen’ in Swedish as a start to Lent. If you visit Sweden at the time of Mardi Gras, you will find it in any bakery that you go to, with a strong cup of delicious coffee. Really, Mardi Gras brings with it this winter treat.
3. History of Semla
The word semla comes from the Latin word ‘similar,’ which means wheat flour. Though it is not a usual treat, people in Sweden are extremely fond of it,and it is eaten all year round. But its importance increases during the period before Lent. The people of Sweden eat the semla only on the three days preceding Lent. It is almost irresistible to let go of a sweet such as this accompanied with a mug of coffee. When it was first made, the semla was an average bun with no filling. The almond paste was introduced in the 18thcentury when people started filling it in the semla. Afterward, in the 19th century, milk was made as an accompaniment with the semla, which was also known as ‘hetvägg’ in Swedish.
The celebration of Mardi Gras started centuries ago, with pagan celebrations of fertility and the season of spring. The Carnival marks the start of Mardi Gras, with colorful headdresses, various rituals, and parades. Ash Wednesday, which comes after Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, is the day on which people fast. The name Mardi Gras is believed to have come from the tradition of eating well cooked, royal and heavier foods before the fasting season.
4. How is the date for Mardi Gras noted?
The day of when Mardi Gras will be is found out by the date of Easter. It is celebrated exactly on the 47th day before Easter.
5. Carnival and celebrations of Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras has its color scheme. The official colors of the season are said to be gold, purple and green. The gold stands for power, purple stands for justice and green stands for faith. The carnival in Sweden takes its inspiration from the New Orleans carnival, which is probably the most well known Mardi Gras celebration around the world. Apart from eating semlor, the Swedes are busy twirling in colorful robes around the street for three days. Drinks flow in generous amounts, and everyone is dressed up for days and nights of a restriction free carnival in which they can sing and dance to their heart's content. The most stunning part to take in is the elaborate makeup that people do, which involves heavy eye makeup, glitter and fancy hairdo’s.
6. Food during Mardi Gras in Sweden
Traditionally, Swedes eat a bun called a semla, which is delicious cardamom scented bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream. Semlor is the plural form of Semla. The Semlor is so popular that it is sold all year round and is the most demanded treat by the Swedes.
Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday is also known as Fettisdagen. It also has some other names in Swedish including ‘fläktisdagen’ (pork Tuesday) and ‘semmeldagen’ (semlor day), as Swedish people consume almond paste stuffed buns which are also infused with cardamom and are topped with whipped cream “semlor” especially for on this day.
Mardi Gras is an important celebration and is a pretext for everyone to come together and enjoy the elaborate and colorful festivities in the streets, where the carnival symbolizes the letting go of everything that has been plaguing you for ages and throw yourself wholeheartedly into the celebrations which mark an important time of the year.